When will I see you again? Kyle Meyer Three naked forms emerge behind a rash of colours as if coming up for air. This large-scale textural self-portrait articulates the feelings of seclusion, claustrophobia and anxiety that run throughout Kyle Meyer’s latest body of work. Largely created in lockdown and in response to global crises, the artworks express the artist’s personal psychological experiences of enforced solitude whilst also speaking to shared human conditions of oppression, loss and uncertainty. Aptly entitled When will I see you again?, the artist’s first UK solo show at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery London is a powerful interrogation of normality and what it means to be human in today’s world. Based in New York, Meyer originally trained in photography and graphic design before going on to learn the art of weaving in Swaziland during a fellowship. His practice now melds these two artistic mediums to create highly-textural, layered and often surreal artworks that question the potency of digital photography by challenging the viewer’s perceptions of reality.
For Meyer, the process usually begins with the setup and capturing of one or several images, which are then printed, reassembled or overlaid and hand-woven together with strips of dyed fabric. Through the physical act of weaving, the printed image is ruptured and distorted, creating a surreal effect which recalls digital pixelation. The aim for Meyer, however, is to reconnect the physical body to making and viewing of an image; the effort of the artist’s hands is visible in the textures of each piece. ‘There are subtle changes in the weaving and colour in these works, which play with perception,’ commented the artist. ‘I’m bringing to attention something that would have never been seen before.’ This disruptive drive as well as a deep physical engagement with the artistic materials and creative process are essential to Meyer’s practice.
For the piece entitled ‘The Pit Deep Down Inside’, the artist dug an eight-foot deep hole which he used as a pit in which to burn various objects. Photographed from a wide perspective, the glowing pit appears in front of a calm pastoral scene, representing the suppression of emotion and conflict. Whilst the artwork entitled ‘Last Breath’, depicts a dilapidated house which Meyer set on fire prior to its demolition. Again, the image highlights a striking contrast between the stillness of the domestic setting and the explosive energy of the fire as a toxic-looking smoke gushes from the side of the building, engulfing one corner of the artwork and appearing to transcend beyond its own dimensions. The imagery and title of this piece powerfully resonate with the Black Lives Matter protests currently erupting across the globe, whilst the visualised dichotomies (stillness/violence, silence/sound, private/public) question the personal and collective structures of our lives. Similarly, ‘A Juncture in Existence’ disturbs conventional perceptions by rupturing an idyllic scene with a physical gap between the two halves of the image. The artwork is also intentionally hung upside down to further disrupt the assumptions of our gaze. Once again, Meyer questions our inherent acceptance of normality whilst demonstrating the potential to break-away from convention.
Notably, ‘Absence of Touch’ is the only work in this series without a sculptural element. The image was made by laying a print outside to be dyed by the snow, whilst the haunting white spaces were created by gloves laid across the surface of the paper, reflecting current social restrictions. Whilst this latest body of work deals with difficult emotions and challenging subject matter, there is a strong undercurrent of hope. Just as the artwork articulates the artist’s own experiences of emotional catharsis, the viewer is invited to reflect on the collective and personal forms of oppression which are embedded into the fabric of our realities. The sculptural artwork entitled ‘Bed Sheet’, for example, serves as a remnant of time but also as symbol of progression; the sheet was used as a prop in several of Meyer’s photographs and has now become an artwork in its own right. This process of renewal is essential to understanding the artist’s practice and more widely, the power of art; it is through the creative transformation of physical materials, ideologies and psychological experiences that we are able to see the world anew, ignite action and bring about change.